When our guests arrive here at Astra Suites, they are always amazed by the imposing “Skaros” and inevitably ask us all about it… Not only is it strikingly beautiful and unique, it has a very interesting history as well! And no, this is not a volcano standing right in front of your door, so please don’t worry… In fact, this dramatic rock sculpture is actually the medieval capital of Santorini! Once home to a powerful and strategic fortified castle, it was also densely blanketed by many public and private structures that constituted the business and administrative heart of the island. In modern times, as it remains, it is simply the most impressive landmark of our tiny village of Imerovigli, and it can be seen clearly from our current capital of Fira and almost the entire volcanic caldera side of the island. Follow the ancient paths to Skaros and you will always find your way back home here to Astra! The fortified settlement of Skaros was recognized for the first time by mapmakers in 1421. Observers in the 17th century reported that its unique position made it solidly immune to attack from foreign invaders as well as pirates. On the very top of its cone was its ruling hub, thoughtfully protected by a retractable wooden bridge. There was a dense population of islanders living and working on the massive rocky surface and many paths of transport weaving about like a labyrinth. There existed two castles, one above and one below, the upper built by Venetians who took control of the island in 1207. The lower castle was built in the 17th century and was occupied by various factions including the Orthodox church, and situated nearby was the monastery of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors vital to the Aegean culture. But soon after began a slow exodus from Skaros due to generally difficult living conditions, a crumbling infrastructure due to earthquakes, and the fact that invaders and pirates were no longer such an imminent danger. By the end of the 18th century Fira had become the modern and thriving capital of the island it remains today. An adventurous hike to the Skaros reveals the remnants of a few medieval settlements and include a visit to the still existing Church of Ioannis Apokefalistheis on the opposite side of the rock, not visible from Astra but from the sea it is quite a sight. Easily accessed from our property, an exploration of our stately Skaros by foot is a great opportunity for unique vistas, important island history, and a great workout too! Feel free to visit the Astra Suites reception desk for more information and advice on hiking our fascinating Skaros rock!